Work and financial related stress often leads o alcoholism and violent behavior

Alberto was nine years old, living with his elder brother, two sisters and parents back in Mexico. But things changed rather abruptly  his mother died.their father started hard on the bottle and neglected their upkeep. He couldnt go to school as he had to help on the farm with his elder brother, for which they were punished if they failed to be up by four. Their fathers brutality went on for eight years before he died. It was then that he migrated into the US in search of jobs. With no useful education, he only worked as a casual laborer in steel mills and plantation farms in California, Texas and Florida. Like his father, loneliness, stress and homesickness drove him to heavy drinking.

When he was twenty three, he moved back to Mexico where he met his future wife, aged 20. After their first child, a daughter, he moved back to the US to work and support his family. He could still control his anger, but not his drinking habits. However, by the time of his second visit to Mexico, he had lost grip of his self control. He became increasingly abusive and addicted to his drinking habits. When he again returned to the States, he still worked as a manual laborer, doing menial jobs in construction sites, farms and timber yards. For the next seven years he stayed in America, he could send only half of his salary to his family, and at times missed to send anything altogether.

He again went back to Mexico, and this time he abused even his children, beating them frequently and getting deeper into addiction. But when he moved together with his family back to California, his drinking habit slowed down, drinking occasionally during the weekends. Unfortunately, he could not keep from abusing his family for long. He soon returned to his former abusive nature. At 40, he still fought with his wife and beat his children. Reflecting on it, he said I only drank on the weekends to ease my pain and work stress I never meant to hit my children and wife I regret that. When their son turned eighteen, his wife filed for a divorce, which offset him and as a consequence, he beat her. He was arrested and locked up for two days, by which time his family had moved out.

On his release from prison, he started to stalk his wife, who in turn went to court to have him restrained. He didnt show up in court though. Two years later, he signed divorce forms, after which they were officially divorced. During the two years prior to the divorce, Alberto says that the first six months were nightmares for me. He was drunk most of the days for which he got fired from two jobs, got involved in two car accidents and spent several days in jail. When he left jail, he learnt of the death of his brother in a road accident, and went back home to pay his final tributes and reflect about his messed life.

His sisters supported him and received help from Alcoholic Anonymous Association. He attended meetings where he talked about his addiction and abusive habits. However, it was hard to accept the loss of his family, and asked the court to allow him visit his children. At first their reception was cold, but with time they started to welcome him. Today, he gets along well with his eldest son and daughter, who invite him out every weekend. Nonetheless, he is sad that he didnt realize earlier the effects that alcohol could have on his life and family.

Theoretical Perspective
The theory of Social Cognitive social learning by Albert Bandura explains how individuals acquire and maintain certain behavioral patterns, while also providing the basis for intervention strategies (Bandura, 1997). The theory was first developed by John Dollard and Neale Miller in 1941, and then later expanded by Albert Bandura and Richard Walters in 1963 to include the concept of learning through observation or imitation of others (role models). It describes the process of learning in light of the dynamic inter-relationships between environmental factors, human behavior and personal characteristic factors.

The theorys central argument is that individuals learn form their physical, cultural and social environments, in relation to how their personal behavior patterns and personality characteristics interact with the environmental factors. The environment converges with the individuals character traits and personal experiences to influence his actions and behaviors, which eventually become a habit. For instance, a child brought up by drinking parents may copy the behavior through social learning, i.e. observing and imitating the parents drinking habits.

Since Social Cognitive Theory focuses on understanding a persons construction of reality within a given environmental and socio-cultural context, it becomes a useful approach in intervention measures for personality development, health promotion and behavior change. For instance, it could help a drug addict stop the habit if the parson is willing to interact with an ex-addict and learn from their experiences, which may reflect their personal history on addiction. The addicts association with the ex-addict, coupled with a supporting social and physical environment could help him change his addictive behaviors.

Albertos case seems to fit with the perspectives of this theory. He grew up in an environment that cultivated drinking and abusive habits, and worked within an environment that reinforced them. His father was a drunk and great abuser, and so Alberto himself had been a victim of parental abuse. While he did not actually learn his drinking habits from his father, he was a product of his addiction since he was denied a good education that would have shaped his values, and lacked parental care and guidance. Thus, when he got to California, he had nothing to lean on upon getting overwhelmed with the strains of his work, loneliness and stress. In fact, these are some of the rehabilitation aspects addressed by Alcoholic Anonymous groups. They establish a close relationship that eases the tensions of stress and loneliness. This observation is demonstrated by the fact that after joining one of the groups, he was able to control and stop his drinking habits.

Emotional and psychological support by family members is also necessary in helping addicts. Support by family members and friends create a friendly atmosphere in which the individual can reflect about his behavior and change them. It is notable that Albertos condition worsened every time he got back to California, far away from friends and family members. The environment created by the nature of his work- physical labor and poor working conditions could have exhausted his nerves, arousing his temper and eventually pushing him to take refugee in alcohol.

Nonetheless, the theory does not explain the aspect of revenge that is present in Albertos case. His painful childhood experiences are repeated upon his children. His frustrations from lack of a better job are vented on his wife. Alberto himself admits that he really never wanted to be abusive, but drunk so as to deal with the harsh realities of his life. This notwithstanding, however, the theory is relevant in explaining how environmental factors impacts upon the behavior of individuals.

Current Research Comparison
Sussman et al (2008, 1804)) observes that drug addiction, especially alcoholism results in maladaptive trends of substance use leading to severe distress. These symptoms are not only harmful to the affected individuals, but also a threat to the larger society in which they live such as family violence (Gilbert et al 1991). This aspect of alcoholism is exhibited by Albertos father, who not only abused them, but failed to offer good parental care by neglecting their educational needs. While it has never been clear what really motivates individuals to take that first step into drug abuse, is quite clear that people make choices based on available information, and get influenced by their social environments.

According to Bonnie and OConnell (2004, 2), the youth are influenced within a context of a society in which drinking has become a normative behavior and images about alcohol are pervasive. Through socialization, copying and peer influence, the youth and vulnerable members are likely to be influenced into drinking and drug abuse. When the society itself promotes these behaviors, then the youth will only inherit by learning the trends set by their predecessors. Alberto learnt these habits from his family, which portrays the situation within the larger society. It becomes an organized group thinking culture, which interferes with individual problem solving abilities and emotional functioning (Sussman et al 1803). Thus, when he was faced with the challenges of a hard life in a hostile environment, he could not control his anger or drinking problems.

This is common with immigrants (Gilbert et al 1991) as found out by a research conducted on Hispanic youths living in the US. The sampled group exhibited a stable habit of alcohol consumption throughout their lives. However, men showed a greater prevalence of alcohol consumption than female immigrants. In the study, it was also found that depression and stress was a major factor that contributed to heavy drinking, even among US born youths of Hispanic and Latin origin. Mexican immigrants in particular, the study further says, had a higher expectation of dealing with depression after drinking (p 701). After the divorce, Alberto experienced what he calls a nightmare, a psychological condition that would prompt one to alcohol as a suppression mechanism.

Piece et al (1994) attributes drug use and abuse to financial problems and money related strains. They reported a strong connection between financial pressures and stress, and a close relationship between stress and alcohol consumption. Unemployment and poor pay could lead individuals to heavy drinking as an attempt to cope with stress and depressions related to economic pressures. Albertos situation of psychological stress and depression could be understood as stemming from his inability to secure a better job other than the lowly paying menial tasks. Similarly, poor pay and the pressures of family responsibilities could have converged to push his drinking habits so as to forget about his financial problems and tone down his depression. The research also adds that people consume alcohol so as to suppress negative attitudes and emotions and for psychological relief. While moving from one city to another in search of employment, Alberto would have considered himself a failure for managing to get only menial and non-skilled jobs. To escape from this reality and the problems that pointed to his educational shortcoming, drinking became an easier attraction.

The study concluded that if became dependant of alcohol to cope with their negative feelings, it led to a psychological dependence on alcoholism, which in turn could lead to other problems not directly related to alcohol. This is seen in the psychological depression suffered by Alberto, who for two years could not come to terms with his divorce.

Michael et al (1993) studied the relation between work-family conflicts and alcohol consumption. They noted that work related stressors such as work load and powerlessness were major factors in peoples drinking habits. It was common for individuals to drink after working hours to dissipate job stress. It could also lead to family conflicts (p 546) which in turn pave way for alcohol as escape routes. The study also showed consistence with previous studies that indicated a lower degree of alcohol consumption among females to cope with stress problems. Respondents also expressed their expectations to reduce the tension caused by their problems. They stated their expectations as to forget your worries, to relax, cheer up when you are in a bad mood, to help when you feel depressed and nervous, to feel more confident and sure of yourself, and because there is nothing else you can do to relieve boredom (Michael et al 1993, p 551).

And finally, Friedman (1998) linked violent behavior to alcohol and other drug abuse. He reports that drugs have a pharmacological effect, which is a direct biological effect of the drugs on the structure of the brain, or as temporary physiological effect on brain functioning which causes a cognitive dysfunction of the abuser or a loss of emotional control leading to violent behavior (Friedman, 340). Miller (1990) says that uncontrolled substance abuse could lead to family and spousal violence (qtd in Friedman, 1998, 343).

This literature review and other researches portray the experiences suffered by many families as a result of financial pressures and alcohol abuse. I remember a related incidence in my family that often led to conflicts and sometimes violent bursts from my dad. My dad had been an alcoholic way before he married. However, he gave up drinking after meeting my mum and settling down. Under her insistence, they took a mortgage for a house that was beyond their financial means, which meant that they were going to pay for it for a long time. Conscious of this fact, my dad left his stable but not-so-good paying job for a higher paying one (he was a marketing manager but changed to marketing research in the same company), where his salary was almost doubled. However, two years later the company moved its research department to its headquarters in France, and my father could not keep his job because they preferred a local (French citizens) research personnel.

After two months of fruitless job hunting, he staggered home one night and announced that he will sell the house and relocate to another city. It is not the decision that shocked us, but the fact that he was drunk. Regardless, my mum tried to argue with him, at which point he blamed her for insisting on buying the house in the first place. They quarreled every night he came home, all the while getting into drinking more and more. One night he beat her up when she pointed out that he was squandering the little money he had left with his drinking habits. He walked out the following day, disappeared for three months without a word from him. Meanwhile, we were having problems with our school fees. When my mum was contemplating a divorce, he walked into the house one evening as we were having supper to announce that he had just been offered his management job at the company.

However, it was not until he came home sober for two weeks that everybody sighed with relieve.


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